NFL Ratings

Net's 20th year averaged 21.2 million viewers; CBS also on the rise, drawing 18.7 million

The NFL on Fox has never been bigger than this season, as the net is enjoying its most-watched campaign in the 20 years since it began televising the league in 1994.

With Nielsen data in for Week 17 action on Sunday, including the pivotal Green Bay-Chicago matchup, the NFL on Fox averaged 21.2 million viewers for the 2013 season — up 8% from 2012 (19.7 million) and surpassing 2010 (20.11 million), which had been the previous best for the network.

The NFL on Fox has now delivered its four most-watched seasons in the last four years, as the league has never been more popular. This year’s Fox action drew 25% more viewers than it did five years ago (17.0 million in 2008) and 36% more than 10 years ago (15.6 million in 2003).

Fox’s late doubleheader window, which it likes to call “America’s Game of the Week,” averaged a whopping 27.2 million viewers this season for its nine 4:25 p.m. ET games, making it the most popular program on television.

Of course, the big football season for Fox isn’t over yet, as the network will air the Super Bowl from the Meadowlands in New Jersey on Feb. 2 — two weeks after it airs the NFC Championship Game in primetime.

Fox also has what is a lock to be this coming weekend’s most-watched playoff game when the San Francisco 49ers battle the Green Bay Packers late Sunday afternoon.

Over at CBS, the net’s NFL coverage this season averaged 18.7 million viewers — a 6% increase over last year’s 17.7 million and the second largest audience for the AFC regular-season package since at least 1987 (as far back as CBS records go).

The Eye begins its postseason coverage on Sunday when the San Diego Chargers take on the Cincinnati Bengals.

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